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Fears for Bruce Willis date back to 2017 movie ‘Glass,’ say insiders

For the past few years, Bruce Willis has been shielded by his family and friends.

Up until this week, the actor’s loved ones were understandably quiet about the news that he had been diagnosed with aphasia — a condition that causes loss of the ability to understand or express speech.

While the “Die Hard” star worked up until the end of last year, The Post is told that both he and his family came to the “difficult decision” he could no longer work over the past few months. This week, they released a statement that, as a result of his illness, “Bruce is stepping away from the career that has meant so much to him.”

A source familiar with the situation stressed: “Bruce wanted to work, he loves to work, but he had deteriorated to such an extent that he could not perform. It was Bruce’s choice and he was supported by his family. Of course, this was a difficult decision.”

Page Six this week reported how Willis had struggled recently, and the LA Times cited industry sources saying that, on recent films, the actor had to resort to using an earpiece through which he was fed his lines. His co-producer Stephen J. Eads got $200,000 per project to guide Willis around on set, the Times reported, but downplayed any concerns about the actor’s health.

The source said: “Yes, Bruce may have been using an earpiece, but so do many other major stars. Bruce may have memory loss, but the guy is [still] acting. You can watch any of his latest movies, like ‘Deadlock,’ and he was able to act. They’re not going to be paying him just to say words without acting.”

At the height of the pandemic, Willis (top left) quarantined with his ex-wife Demi Moore (second from bottom right), their daughters and various friends at Moore's Idaho home.
At the height of the pandemic, Willis (top left) quarantined with his ex-wife Demi Moore (second from bottom right), their daughters and various friends at Moore’s Idaho home.
Demi Moore/Instagram

There were, however, signs that Willis, one of Hollywood’s most beloved leading men, was struggling up to four years ago, industry insiders told The Post.

On the set of M. Night Shylaman’s movie “Glass,” which was filmed during 2017 and 2018, Willis appeared “slightly off,” according to two production sources.

“Bruce seemed a little confused at times and needed a little more help with his lines. This was the first time that I had heard anything about his health,” said one production source. “At that point it seemed that he was a little off. We thought it could be anything from aging to maybe even being a little drunk — common mistakes that people make when seeing the first signs of anything like dementia — to just not wanting to be there.

Willis and Moore share daughters (from left) Rumer, Tallulah and Scout, seen here with Bruce's mom, Marlene.
Willis and Moore share daughters (from left) Rumer, Tallulah and Scout, seen here with Bruce’s mom, Marlene.
Getty Images For Comedy Central

“In reflection, Bruce may have been struggling with all of this back then.”

Reps for Shylaman were unavailable for comment, but after news broke of Willis’ retirement this week, the director — who first worked with Willis on 1999 classic “The Sixth Sense” — tweeted: “All my love and respect to my big brother Bruce Willis. I know his wonderful family is surrounding him with support and strength.”

Indeed, over the past few years, Willis’ loved ones have banded together.

On March 19 — Willis’ 67th birthday — his ex-wife, actress Demi Moore, posted a photo on Instagram of the two of them, saying that she was “Thankful for our blended family.”

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, in early 2020, Willis quarantined with Moore and their three grown daughters — Rumer, 33; Scout, 30; and Tallulah, 28 — at her home in Hailey, Idaho. His current wife, model Emma Heming Willis, and their two young daughters, nine-year-old Mabel and seven-year-old Evelyn, flew from Los Angeles to join them.

Willis and wife Emma Heming Willis (next to him) and their girls Mabel and Evelyn are close to his older daughters and Moore.
Willis and wife Emma Heming Willis (next to him) and their girls Mabel and Evelyn are close to his older daughters and Moore.
Instagram

“Everyone wanted Bruce to feel comfortable. He does struggle with his short-term memory and he has a calmer, easier comfort level with people he’s had in his life a long time,” said a family source. “It’s not as though he suddenly had a stroke and lost the ability to speak. He’s been in a state of cognitive decline for a while now, and it’s finally progressed to the stage where it’s clear he’s not going to be able to speak or comprehend much going forward.”

Demi even posted a photo on Instagram of the family wearing matching striped pajamas during lockdown. In 2021, she told Naomi Campbell on the YouTube series “No Filter with Naomi”: “There’s been a lot of challenges and a lot tragedy with the pandemic, but I also think there’s been a lot of gifts and blessings.”I personally feel like I was really grateful for things slowing down and the time that we had … It has allowed us to reevaluate what’s important … “

The extended family got together for Father's Day 2020 to celebrate Willis.
The extended family got together for Father’s Day 2020 to celebrate Willis.
Demi Moore/Instagram

The source familiar with the situation added: “Bruce and Demi had a very unusual divorce. Even when Demi was married to Ashton [Kutcher, from 2005 to 2013], they always had a very close relationship. Demi was right there at Bruce’s roast on Comedy Central in 2018.

“The whole family is very supportive of him and have tried to make things good for him.” 

Even without blood ties, Moore and Heming share love for the other’s girls.

“Our family, regardless of what the shape of it is, it’s important to keep together and for the little ones to feel comfortable with me and to know me so they also know their sisters better,” Moore told Campbell.

Daughter Scout confessed that it was “really funny” to have both her parents “in the house where they raised us. … They’re both such nerdy, adorable, ’90s parents in a small town where they chose to have their kids and not be in LA. It’s been pretty cute.”

Willis' daughters Tallulah (from left), Evelyn, Mabel, Rumer and Scout.
Willis’ daughters Tallulah (from left), Evelyn, Mabel, Rumer and Scout.
Rumer Willis/ Instagram

Moore — who, as Page Six revealed this week, is dating Eleven Madison Park chef and restaurateur Daniel Humm — was married to Willis from 1987 until 2000.

They wed following a whirlwind four-month courtship, with Little Richard officiating their nuptials, and left Hollywood for their Idaho ranch.

But in her memoir, “Inside Out,” Moore, now 59, accused Willis of being controlling.

When Moore became a household name with “Ghost” in 1990, she alleged, Willis told her, “I don’t know if I want to be married.”

While Willis wanted the security and stability of a family, “he also craved excitement and novelty … Basically he wanted to do whatever the f–k he wanted,” she wrote. “He was 36, throw in celebrity and money. You do the math.

Bruce Willis & Demi Moore   (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
Willis and Moore were married from 1987 to 2000.
eff Kravitz/FilmMagic

“I just didn’t buy the ”You’re the king’ kind of thing, which he thrived on,” she wrote.

But the pair are so close that she even attended his and Emma’s wedding vow renewal ceremony in March 2019, and Willis supported her at the launch for “Inside Out.”

When he phoned her after the reading the book, “He got very emotional,” she recalled. “He said, ‘I’m so proud of you.”

“I, too, then became very emotional, and I’m not a crier ― the purity of his love and acceptance, the space that he could hold for me, to be walking out and [have] that encouragement, it just really meant so much ― so much to me,” she added. 

Those who know the Willis clan point out that they have sold $65 million worth of property over the past few years. Willis, his wife and daughters now live in Brentwood, Calif.

The source familiar with the situation said: “There is no need to have that unnecessary expense, not when you’re not using the properties, and you’re not making as much as you used to.”

In December 2019, Willis and Heming sold their sprawling Bedford Corners, NY, home for $7.66 million. They had originally spent $12 million on the property in 2014, meaning the couple lost $4.34 million in the deal.

“The only reasons we are giving it up is because we are so far from our California family, which is why we have decided to return to the West Coast and make our home there,” Willis told the Wall Street Journal.

A year after their 2000 divorce, the estranged couple hit the red carpet with their girls.
A year after their 2000 divorce, the estranged couple hit the red carpet with their girls.
Ron Galella Collection via Getty

In early 2018, the couple also sold their 6,000-square-foot Central Park West duplex for $17.75 million and picked up a 3,000-square-foot condo near Lincoln Center for around $7.9 million, according to reports.

In October 2018, Willis unloaded his Sun Valley, Idaho, mountain house for $5.5 million. And in October 2021, Willis and his wife fetched $6 million for their plot of land on the island of Parrot Cay, well below the $6.9 million asking price.

Another Hollywood production source said: “I’m honestly glad the family kept this a secret for a while.”

Willis is adored by his big family. His daughter Talullah wrote on Instagram to celebrate his birthday last year: “Throughout my childhood I was so frequently asked what it was like to have capital B Bruce Willis as a dad, that somehow these people thought that when they saw him jump off buildings via a 20ft screen he remained EXTRA LARGE.

“He’s a person, a man, a son, a kid from Jersey who hit the mother f—ng jackpot of life by the stroke of luck he couldn’t even explain … “

Willis and Heming wed in 2009.
Willis and Heming wed in 2009.
Getty Images for Film at Lincoln

Upon Willis’ birthday this month, wife Emma called the star “the greatest love of my life,” adding: “This guy walked into my life has turned it upside and inside out every day since — it’s exhausting … I thank my lucky stars for him every single day.”

But, perhaps in a sign of what was to come, she added: “I know there’s no fan greater than a BW fan so send your positive birthday vibes his way.”

About the author

Tina Sanders

Tina is the mind behind Gruntstuff.com, and she ideated it when she was working for an online magazine company where she used to cover US-based headlines news. She holds a degree in journalism and has more than 4.5 years of experience in an online magazine company. She had the idea while working there but when she was quite sure about starting something on her own, she took the risk and left the job to start Gruntstuff. Since then she added a few team members, and along with them, she creates General US news content on the site.

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